A couple of years back, Qualcomm showed off its Halo technology that would one day charge electric vehicles wirelessly.
We oohed and ahed, and then just as quickly, forgot about it as it was just a concept. Who knew that this one day would be upon us in 2014, when we flew to Putrajaya to check out how it worked at the second leg of the first-ever Formula E, and to hear of the grand plans they’re cooking up for the future.
The connected car
According to Graeme Davison, Vice President of Technology, we’re already in the first generation of the connected car future. With technology like Ford’s Pedestrian Detection system and Audi’s Virtual Cockpit already a reality, the connected car isn’t just a concept, it’s a rapidly approaching certainty.
Safety wise, vehicles would communicate with other vehicles, and even pedestrians, to communicate instances of accidents up ahead, or even send a notification to a pedestrian who might be too distracted by his smartphone to notice the oncoming car. Considering all the mobile components that Qualcomm has been making, they're now taking that and making them automotive-grade to use in the cars as well.
Imagine a future where your entire electric car could serve as the Wi-Fi hotspot for your devices to connect to, having your car's audio system stream whatever you're listening to/watching as soon as you get in, or having your electric vehicle charge as soon as it's parked. It's all possible.
Formula E is the bedrock
Qualcomm broke out the charging pads at Formula E. Capable of charging the specially outfitted BMW i3 and i8 course cars wirelessly, which means no unplugging in case of emergencies, the charging stations are set up in certain areas where the cars can be parked over them.
Just like how Formula One technology trickles into real life car making, think of Formula E as the testing grounds for the tech that will one day be in your own garage or car park. Davison tells us that Qualcomm looks forward to installing the same Halo tech in the actual Formula E racing cars.
Formula E also showcased the possibilities of an electric future, that such a large scale event with so many electric-powered vehicles could run smoothly without a hitch.
In the future
But the reason people don't buy electric vehicles is because of their limited range, and wireless charging doesn't exactly solve that. Well, not In the eventuality that electric vehicles become the vehicle of choice for the masses, range wouldn’t be an issue. Why? Dynamic charging is the answer.
There won’t be the need for perfect alignment to get wireless charging to kick in at the frequency sweet spot of 85 kHz. While that won't disable the frequency that your keyless system works on, it's still not the safest bandwidth to get within.
So what happens if your cat or kid crawls into the space between car and charging pad? Don't worry, Qualcomm has the contingency answer for that too. Termed Living Object Protection, the system can detect when a foreign object enters within proximity of the charging field. This automatically shuts the system down, and sends the owner a notification for his intervention. The mm-based radar system will be so sensitive that it can even detect the heartbeat and breathing from a distance away, so no worries about it being activated too late.
Sorry for the digression, we got distracted by the cat. Back to the topic of dynamic charging. The plans Qualcomm has for wireless charging doesn't stop at the pad, they include broader categories like static charging, semi-dynamic charging, and dynamic charging.
The first could be parking spots outside your local grocers, where you park the car and get it charged while you pick up necessities. Davison puts it this way: "If you can park a car, you can charge a car." There won't even be a need for alignment in the future.
The second could occur at traffic lights, where the semi-dynamic charging kicks in while you stop your electric car momentarily.
The third and most ambitious are charging pads built into the roads themselves, charging your car on the drive, meaning you'll never have to stop to "gas" it up.
On a much larger scale, the energy footprint of entire cities could possibly be changed with more electric vehicles powered by wireless charging. Think less air pollution. As the air becomes cleaner, windows can be opened and as such, people wouldn’t feel the need to switch on the air-conditioning. Call it an energy revolution if you will. We're liking the potential domino effect that wireless charging can bring about.
And it doesn’t just end there. The different possibilities of charging wirelessly on the go? All that can be solar-powered, and the world will be free from evil pollution. That is, until someone somehow finds a way to sentence the earth to death once again.
But you get the idea. It all begins with this one wireless charging pad, and from here on out, infinite potential.